For many women, simply thinking about receiving sexual attention can elicit feelings of anxiety and dread. However, this isn’t the case for all women. According to a recent study, sexual objectification by a fully-committed partner, such as a long-term boyfriend or husband, can be beneficial to the woman. Moreover, she may like it.

Most research on female sexual objectification (valuation) tends to focus on the negative consequences, Dr. Andrea Meltzer, co-author of the study, told Medical Daily in an email. That said, her team of researchers from Florida State University and Northwestern University sought to investigate any possible benefits to sexual objectification. “I believed it was important to investigate the implications of sexual valuation by women's long-term relationship partners,” Meltzer said.

The researchers recruited 113 newlywed heterosexual couples of white, black, and Latino backgrounds to take part in a survey. It asked men to report the extent to which they sexually valued their wives, and asked women to report how committed to the relationship they believed their husbands to be, as well as both parties’ overall marital satisfaction. Results showed wives who felt their husbands were more committed and had higher levels of marital satisfaction were more likely to see their husbands’ sexual valuation as a positive force in their marriage.

In a second experiment, the researchers investigated the relationship between sexual valuation defined by sexual frequency correlated with marital satisfaction and commitment perceptions. Among 108 couples they found that while there was a positive correlation between sexual frequency and satisfaction/perception of commitment among women, there wasn’t among men. The researchers believe this had to do with women’s tendency to seek out long-term sexual partners more often than men.

Based on these results, the team concluded that being sexually valued by a committed partner may have benefits for women — with evolutionary roots. According to the object of desire self-consciousness theory, many women go to great lengths to increase their sexual desirability; they spend time and money on makeup and fashion, for example. Although there are various reasons why women wear makeup, one of the main goals in this beautification process is to attract and maintain a relationship with a desirable male, one who can help in raising kids and provide emotional support. Moreover, the theory suggests sexual valuation is a byproduct of these behaviors; finding a committed partner leads to contentment as it signals the woman has successfully achieved her goal.

These findings could also apply in modern day life by altering the way women view their sexuality. While Meltzer emphasized these findings demonstrate averages, and that they “should not be applied to all women,” they show that sexual valuation isn’t always negative. “Women can benefit from sexual valuation in the context of a relationship — as long as their partners are committed to the long-term,” Meltzer said, adding that more research will be needed before the information can be used in a professional setting, such as marriage counseling.

Source: Meltzer AL, McNulty JK, Maner JK. Women Like Being Valued for Sex, as Long as it is by a Committed Partner. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2015.